Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins unveiled a lean budget yesterday for the upcoming year that would hold the line on most city spending while adding paramedics and a long-awaited ambulance at Eastport.
The proposed $37.5 million budget for day-to-day expenses would increase spending by 1.9 percent over last year's $36.8 million budget. It would also keep the current property tax rate of $1.80 per $100 of assessed value .
But higher assessments would raise the average tax tab 9.1 percent in the budget year beginning July 1. The city also kept the tax rate steady last year, while higher assessments pushed the average payments up 9 percent.
Hopkins' spending blueprint continues to deny employees cost-of-living pay increases, but provides 3.2 percent in merit and longevity raises. He has asked for 10 new positions, including seven paramedics to staff the third city ambulance he promised when he took office in 1989.
In his State of the City report, Hopkins emphasized that Annapolis must continue to be tight-fisted because of the sluggish economy and federal spending cuts.
"The city, long thought to be recession-proof, was not spared the impact of the economic downturn," he wrote.
Hopkins enacted "austerity measures" last year, including freezing hiring citywide, except for the Police Department.
This year, he has proposed hiring an administrative assistant for the Fire Department, a data processing analyst for the Finance Office and a recreation maintenance worker.
In his 40-page report on Annapolis, the mayor listed his administration's accomplishments over the past two years, including strengthening the police force and introducing a citywide curbside recycling program. He also noted that the long-planned Gotts Court parking garage is expected to open by the end of the year and renovations to the Market House at City Dock will be completed.
Saying "we cannot skimp on public safety," the mayor included money for an ambulance at Eastport. Hopkins came under criticism last year for allowing one of the city's only two ambulances to take Hilda Mae Snoops, the longtime companion of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, to a hospital in Baltimore.
The operating budget also includes a $112,00 revenue surplus from running the city landfill -- and proposes using that money to close it by the end of the year.
The city stands to lose between $2 million and $4 million in annual revenue once the landfill closes and is continuing to negotiate with the county to keep it open. The City Council recently approved a capital budget that included $340,000 for new plans to expand the dump off Defense Highway.